NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Going around the room at the 2017 AFP Retail Roundtable, multiple treasury professionals once again expressed their dissatisfaction with armored carrier services. One treasurer even referred to the process of dealing with these carriers as “a horror story.”
This was a hot topic at the roundtable last year and the year before. The crux of the problem is that retailers have to find a way to transport cold, hard cash. So unless they decide to follow the Sweetgreen model and remove cash from the system entirely, they will continue to rely on these often unreliable carriers.
A treasurer for a department store chain reiterated what most practitioners have said before, that customer service is the biggest problem. “We’ve had a lot of missed pickups, and a lack of response when they occur,” he said. “Sunday service is also a challenge in certain markets.”
Tom Hunt, CTP, director of treasury services of AFP, noted that switching carriers often does little to resolve the problem—the majority of them have the same issues. However, at least one treasurer made a switch to a fairly small company that only serves a handful of states, and the results have been stellar. “They do not miss pickups unless it’s some kind of Mother Nature catastrophe, and they’re pricing is very decent,” she said. The experience has been so positive that the retailer now uses this carrier in any regions that it is available.
Conversely, many of the larger, national carriers are highly unpopular with treasurers. Attendees agreed that some of these industry leading companies are completely unreliable, with one practitioner remarking that “they act like they’re going us a favor, when we’re the ones paying them,”
And if you’re thinking that the major carriers might provide better service to companies that give them a lot of business, think again. One treasurer remarked that his company uses one particular carrier for about 80 percent of its services and it causes his company more problems than any others.
However, the treasurers understood why the armored carriers were struggling—and they even sympathized with them. “They have been having a lot of service issues because they’re having huge turnover,” said a treasurer. “When an associate has a gun put to their head at an ATM and dies, they lose over 60 percent of their staff in that area and they just can’t recover. And that’s happening a lot—more often than they’re telling us.”
Solutions for treasurers
One treasurer said she meets with the carrier once a year and presents a list of all the service issues her company has encountered. “We actually give them a ranking, from A to F,” she said. “We develop an action plan. Sometimes that action plan is having weekly calls for a period of time until an area is improved upon.”
There is an initial timeframe that is established; for example, both parties might agree to have weekly calls for three months. But if an issue arises before that three month period ends, the retailer continues to hold calls until everything is resolved. “It’s so much easy to just have those weekly calls rather than picking up the phone and trying to get ahold of somebody or sending emails that they don’t ever respond to,” she said. “We’ve found a lot of success there.”
Another way retailers can make some headway is to put specific language related to customer service into the initial contract with the carrier, the treasurer added. “I just wrote it into the contract and negotiated it,” she said. “We put in strict language for specific locations, instead of having a one-size-fits- all. Also, if there are issues with a deposit to a specific store and we haven’t resolved it in a certain amount of time, then we can pull money, because we’ve had issues in the past where that has gone on for six months.”Another practitioner explained that his company did the same thing. “We decided to do that prior to the RFP last year, because we were having horrific problems all along the East Coast,” he said. “So we put in language related to letters of demand, because we weren’t getting responses to them. We put in language for every 30 days, if we aren’t getting responses to other things. And they’ve been more attentive to our needs so far.”